Are Certified Pre-Owned Cars Worth the Extra Money?

Are Certified Pre-Owned ("CPO") cars worth the extra money? A recent article by Tribune Newspapers discusses the increased cost of CPO vehicles, which consumers bought at record levels in 2014. Certified pre-owned cars are supposedly subjected to an extensive inspection by dealerships, who "certify" that the vehicles meet stringent standards established by the manufacturer.

Thumbnail image for used car signs.jpgCPO cars sell, on average, for about $1,200 more than cars without the certification. And. many consumers will gladly pay $2,000 or more for a certified vehicle.

Part of the increased cost is attributable to the manufacturer's warranty that is included in a CPO purchase. But, much of the increase cost is due the peace of mind that consumers hope to get by purchasing a car that is guaranteed to be of high quality. 

In our experience, the extra cost is not justified. We have seen many instances where  dealerships sold certified used cars with defects. Some of these vehicles had previously wrecked and improperly repaired.

We have also seen examples where cars had defects that were minor. But, the existence of the defects revealed something very important - the dealerships did not perform the intensive inspection that they were supposed to provide. It seems that, for at least some dealers, Certified Pre-Owned is simply a marketing gimmick and is not a true guarantee tht the car is of high quality.  

Our advice is to not rely upon a dealership's certification but to instead pay a little extra for an independent inspection. The minimal cost can save thousands in the long run, and it can provide real peace of mind.

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